This is a series of stories (visions?) my friend, Rob, wrote many years ago about how our paths crossed in different lifetimes through the centuries. More episodes are in the pipeline; the series remains a work in progress. Anyway, I would like to thank him for these fascinating and relentlessly creative stories. If I may say so, he managed to capture different facets of my personality in each vignette. I am tremendously blessed to have met him in several lifetimes. - AJ
by Robert San Miguel
I first met AJ, hundreds of years ago in Angkor Wat. He was a young man, barely 19 and full of youthful energy. He was part of a travelling minstrel troupe, entertaining the weary laborers of the king. I was an 80-year old man sitting on the stairs of the temple after long hours of prayers, pleading for Buddha for the return of my wife who perished in the typhoon. AJ passed me and sang his joyful song. I smiled and for a brief moment I forgot my dead wife. I gave him a token, a coin of some sort but he refused and said I should keep it for now and he’d come back for it later. I said if he didn’t accept it then, he’d never get it again because I was so poor I’d eventually spend it. But he said he’d get it when I became rich. At that moment, a kiss would do. However, I said I was a tired old man too weak to stand and I scolded him for being a foolish boy who did not know the value of things. He laughed at me and called me foolish as well, foolish for sitting under the sun for too long and allowing myself to grow old. He said if he couldn’t get the coin again, he’d steal a kiss from me when I least expected it. After that he went to the streets singing. I never saw him again that century.
The next time I saw AJ, we were in old Beijing, at the golden age of some Dynasty. I was the first born son of a corrupt Chinese bureaucrat and he was the favorite “close friend” of the emperor. AJ was known for his beauty, which made some of the concubines jealous. We were in our 20s. The Emperor was celebrating the birth of his latest son from one of his many concubines. AJ was dressed in the finest garment bought by the emperor from traders from Europe. He walked towards me and commented how ugly the emperor’s new son was. He commented that perhaps the emperor was too drunk and mistook the royal mule for his concubine and had his way with the dumb animal. I said that that was very possible since two of the king’s concubines were notoriously famous for having hairy legs. We had a good laugh and quickly left the banquet and talked on the balcony and made fun of the royalty under the pale moon above the great Chinese empire. AJ said that one day he would leave the emperor and cross the border out of China. I said that he deserved that but he would never leave the mainland forever. Somehow he would always come back. I said that I hated my father for insisting I become a bureaucrat like him. As the night went on, we watched the fireworks display and threw dumplings on the eunuchs below the balcony. We became a couple of miscreants terrorizing whoever we despised in the palace. We stole one of the eunuch’s head gear and hid it under the Emperor’s throne. I said that when we are both free, we would go back there and get the head gear and alternately wear it in public. By the end of the celebration, we swore to be friends forever. The emperor called him back to the palace and my father ordered me to follow him home.
A week later, I heard news that AJ had escaped the palace and joined the caravan en route to Asia Minor. I was busy studying for the qualifying government exam. My father insisted that I join the government and serve the Emperor. On the day of the exam, my father died and so there was no reason for me to take the test. I decided to follow the caravan to Asia Minor, perhaps hoping to meet AJ. When I reached the northern part of China, I received news that the caravan was attacked by barbarians and the traders ran in separate groups to avoid the attackers. Luckily, two groups made it to Asia Minor and crossed to Europe. I stayed in northern China and eventually married one of the daughters of a nomadic chief. I taught children how to write, how to calculate and how to track the movements of stars. I never met AJ again in that century.
The next time I met AJ, it was the 1800s in London. I was a 16-year-old boy working in an antique shop in London. AJ was a famous actor in his 40s. He was collecting a special artifact that supposedly belonged to William Shakespeare. He told me that my master saved it for him and he would buy it for a very exorbitant amount of money. I said that my master would return quickly with the artifact. However, I told AJ that the item was fake and that it never even touched Shakespeare’s dead fingers. AJ was furious and when my master came back carrying the item, AJ grabbed it and threw it at my master and shouted profanities. He shouted “How dare you cheat me! Do you know who I am?” He left the store but quickly turned back and handed me a silver coin. He said that I should hide it from my master and run away somewhere or be an actor. If my master asked me what he gave me, he said I should say “a kiss.” AJ crossed the street. I saw him come in the theater as people outside applauded for his arrival. He waved at me and quickly disappeared in the crowd. Right there and then, I ran away with my silver coin and never returned to the store. I never saw AJ again in that century.